What is Lectio Divina?


Lectio divina is a Latin term that translates roughly as “sacred reading.” It is a spiritual discipline developed by monastics and best known as the technique of personal prayer practiced by the Benedictines. I learned about it through a most fabulous book called In the Spirit of Holiness by the Monks of New Skete, the same monks who raise and train German Shepherds and have written several dog obedience books.

The discipline involves reading from sacred texts in a very specific and deliberate way. The assumption when beginning a session of lectio divina is that the spirit desires to act as a personal teacher and will speak to you through the scriptures that you read. In the true version as practiced by Benedictines, there are four steps:

Lectio – reading slowly and deliberately the given text, several times if necessary

Meditatio – finding the verse or section that speaks to you or seems to have special meaning for you

Oratio – listening for any special lesson that is meant for you in this section

Contemplatio – wordless sitting with this message

I confess to a slightly shortened and more efficient method because of my current lifestyle. I use the readings for the day as contained in the Catholic lectionary. The Catholic Church uses a three-year cycle that goes through most of the major books of the Bible over three years. Daily Mass readings include a Psalm, a Gospel, and part of some of book in the Bible. The Sunday Mass always includes an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading.

I read and look for a verse or more that seems to be directed at me. I write this in my journal and then reflect on whatever specific thoughts it brings up. I always find SOMETHING that has meaning for me, and I especially know that’s the case when I don’t like what I hear. I think of this, irreverently I’m sure, as a Godsmack. I always know I have deserved it.


  1. Dorothy said,

    Wow! That ‘3 year cycle’ is my general approach, too. With just 24 hours in a day, I am better at prayers straight from the heart than Bible study. It works for me to absorb bits and pieces over time, and the older I get (I am 57) I seem to better connect the dots.

    I was Presbyterian when I married my husband, and never promised to convert. Even then, the ‘promise to raise children in the Faith’ was directed to the Catholic spouse. However, my husband is exceedingly active in music ministry, so I was the one who supported them in developing faith.

    He was in the US Navy for 28 years. Quite honestly, I feel lonelier now than when he was deployed overseas. Perhaps it is because being at that distance forced him to communicate better. One recurrent frustration, though, was how he would launch plans for cross-country trips once he got back. No Such Thing as taking an airplane and having a leisurely vacation; he would get those AAA books, study them, and start up an itinerary to visit every living relative between here and the East Coast. When my aunt and uncle were alive, he talked about going to Kentucky, too, in the same trip! No concept of how hard car travel is on kids. He would also think it too much trouble to take suitcases out at motels every night, so tried to sell the plan of just having a little bag with ‘absolute essentials’ in it. Does Not Work , unless a person is fond of wearing the same clothes for a week or more. (Aspies are often Cool with that…).

    Even now, the idea of an extensive car trip with him puts a knot in my stomach. So, extended family thinks I am a cold fish, especially on his side.
    I missed the only high school reunion I ever wanted to attend because he walked in just before I got it Paid for via computer; he commenced to argue for me Driving there (WA state to Yuma, AZ). I have arthritis, and that is a lot of miles. My son could not share in the driving; he had a driver’s license, but not one for AZ, so he was too young to drive legally there. The icing on the cake was: he wanted me to ‘wait’ to go to AZ until we could all go together in the minivan (it is now 20 years old, and was at least 15 when this ‘discussion’ occurred.), but not for the reunion. The man has 10 siblings, and 6 live in Phoenix. Then he said, ‘why not fly but stay at my mother’s house?’ Well, his mum is a chain smoker and I am highly sensitive to that kind of envirionment. Plus, I would be virtually ignoring her by coming and going, vs. staying in a motel, and making a special visit.

    Even now, I regret not figuring out a way to Just Do It and GO, but he played the ‘I am the primary breadwinner’ card and guilted me to the nth degree. I would have had some money coming in for a catering gig, but the whole struggle wore me out.

    We went to his Family Reunion one year. It was great, but I got an intestinal ‘bug’ plus desert dehydration the day we were scheduled to leave. I had to suck up Kaopectate and pray, because he was due back home to play for Mass; couldn’t possibly change the itinerary and stay one day longer so that I could recuperate peacefully. I guess I was lucky we even stayed in a motel; in the past, we have done a lot of be-bopping from one sister or brother to another, the whole time.

    My daughter seems to be ‘neurotypical’ and at 28 has been married nearly a year, and teaches in a Head Start preschool. My son was more of what people would call ‘a handful’ because he has Aspergers. It wore me out jumping through all the hoops to see to his education, while my husband tended to blame all difficulties on me being too loose on discipline (while my friends thought I was too tough; you can never win!) To get him to accept the Official diagnosis took Years.

    It has always been the case that my husband seems to derive too much of his ‘identity’/worth from his musical talent, particularly for church, where he is in high demand and grooves on that. He was already involved to the Max, yet took on leading the Hispanic Mass about a decade or more ago (Sat. nights), so any little vacation absolutely had to terminate by Friday night. After all: he no longer had his Navy Chief identity thing going on anymore.

    It got to where him going places on his own was a ‘staycation’ for me and the kids. Later he also added a Spanish Mass in a town about a half hour away, which is great for them, and the people are nice, but the whole weekend is sucked up. Even the Knights of Columbus guys call him a ‘Mass Junkie’. Kids and I led a ‘parallel existence.’

    Once the kids grew up, I got a handle on my resentment of that Spanish Mass taking up so much Family time, with the exception of when the man could not handle my daughter’s jr. college graduation going into overtime, had not made a contingency plan, and ‘bolted’ before she actually had diploma in hand. He saw her walk in, but was not present for photos afterward. That stung pretty bad, and was impossible to explain, except to tell her ‘this is an Aha! Moment. Dad must have Asperger’s, too.”

    Not clinically diagnosed; I don’t know if we could get him to stand still long enough to fill out the paperwork; he has a high energy level.

    Damn! Garage door going up…To Be Continued…. 😉 It is Barbershop Quartet Practice night, which goes on All Hours.

  2. Dorothy said,

    Me again, for anyone patient enough to care and follow this convoluted stuff.

    I did convert to Catholicism not long after we were married. I was fairly happy with that for decades. It was, for a number of reasons, not working for me later in life. So many people have nearly bestowed Sainthood on my husband, because he is so very good at doing things for the whole wide world; it is the classic case of ‘the shoemakers kids go barefoot.’ He is not a failure as a husband and father, but he is a great Challenge!!
    I have lost count, though, of the number of people who tell me how Lucky I am to have such a great husband.

    The Lutheran church being not so far off from Catholic, the kids and I gravitated there, and stayed. The churches are less than a mile apart, in a small town where, after 26 years, I seem to know a whole lot of people.

    When we married, I was a real introvert, had never sung in a choir in high school or college, had never played a guitar much, although I owned a 6 string. Fast forward: a Catholic choir director got me to sing Psalms, and folks say I am good at it. Unfortunately, they had a tendency to give me an Atta-girl when he was within hearing range, and he gets fewer compliments for his renditions of Psalms.

    Fast-forward some more: he’d recently retired from the Navy, and was re-shingling the roof. He wouldn’t pay anything extra to have the shingles brought up to the roof via conveyor belt, and was hauling them up via a rope. So he was in a Crap kind of mood when I said the choir director had phoned and asked if I would sing the Psalm the following week. The man blew a gasket; “that’s My Week! ____ is going on vacation, and we traded!!” Forget the fact that he was subbing as much as he was ‘scheduled’, and I was no more often than about every 6 weeks. He was so very PIA about it and my balloon of Happiness had been punctured to the degree that I said “It’s all Yours, dude; but you have to explain it to the choir director.” He goes off to Choir Practice; there was a ‘discussion’. He meekly came home and pressured me to change my mind and agree to sing that Psalm. And I did, but there was so little joy in it that I felt No Guilt for taking my worship across town.

    There was a time he asked me to sing a duet at a wedding ceremony, but I forgot how he sings so loud that anyone right next to him has a hard time hearing their own voice. Plus: he did not tell me when the Rehearsal was, yet in the warm-up for the song, he was critical about the few places that I was not ‘spot on’ with the notes. I made a mental note not to be drawn into that scenario again!

    Fast-Forward a few more years; the Lutheran Sunday bulletins have the readings printed on the backside. I got into the habit of circling key ideas and things significant to me; discovered that I could write lyrics and created melodies to go with them. I can’t do ‘notation’, but I have a tape recorder to ‘remind’ me of the melody, and the songs get sung a bit for the Lutherans, primarily in summer when choir is on vacation.. My husband has great guitar skills, but seems to have Envy of my little song-writing hobby. It seems to threaten him if someone else compliments me.

    I took Spanish lessons, which is hard after age 50 something—it’s slow going. I decided to try attending the Saturday night Spanish Mass that he leads. Stupidly thought it might help us get a little closer with a Sharedd Activity.
    Then I decided to sit with his choir. After more than 2 years, I was getting much better with the songs, and I dared to ask: “once in a blue moon, might there be a Psalm easy enough that I could handle it?”

    Answer: “No, because you are not a Practicing Catholic.” Okayyyy…that hurts: a Lot.
    I have not officially become a Lutheran. But I receive communion there, so the priest said I should not get the Eucharist, but can have ‘as many blessings as I want.’ I like the priest, but he has never had to sing about Holy Communion and watch everyone else in the room but himself receive it.

    The two things together, prohibition against singing a Psalm, and No Communion—I’ve about reached the end of my patience. I can understand the former, to a degree, but not the latter, so, compounded, it feels like a cannonball aimed at my soul.

    I asked my husband if the original singers of Psalms were upstanding, good practicing Catholics, and he got very irate. About a month later, I dared to raise the question again, and I had looked up on the Archdiocese website for guidelines about such matters; I had found no prohibitions that strict for Psalmists. He claimed to have a big ol’ complex document that spelled it all out, but it was in storage. And a month after that, I pony up the nerve to ask to See that document, and ask how old it might be. He says “I am sure that I heard at one of the many music workshops I have been to that there are these restrictions.” I told him that he has No Idea how destructive it is when I ask him this and get shot down every time.

    I don’t want to be a musical sensation. I don’t want to be on the schedule even once a month. I don’t want to sing my collection of songs.

    I made a copy of the page and short specific paragraph about Psalmist qualifications, and left it on the desk for him to see. I am sure he saw it. But it will never be raised in discussion, by him. As long as I am not fuming about something, he assumes any little storm has passed and he can do as he likes, so he does.

    The Hispanic congregation is a very nice bunch of people. I also like the people in the English language Masses, and have known many of them for years. Decades! But it is getting harder and harder to try to be a ‘bridge’, ecumenical, etc. I don’t know if I have the strength for it anymore. If I am forced into making a choice, it won’t be Catholic because my soul is not nourished there in the same way.

    arghh! more later; interruption.

  3. Dorothy said,

    One mistake that I made when I was having so many struggles with my son: I was diligent with his appointments and paperwork, but thought it best to wait to discuss Depression with a doctor until after that was done. WRONG!
    I could have derived much benefit during the struggles.

    One would think that because my form of depression is called ‘anxiety’ or ‘situational depression’ that once my son’s troubles became more manageable, I could tape off the meds. But I find myself needing them just as much if not more so, because of stress of dealing with a semi-retired husband (he drives a school bus, mows the tennis courts, delivers newspapers as a Sub, does church janitorial work, occasionally installs For Sale signs on real estate properties, chops and delivers firewood to people who need it to get through winter—one can’t fault his work ethic, certainly.

    I am no saint; one of my weaknesses is in the housekeeping department. Sleep does not always come easy, and when morning comes, the first thought that enters my head is memory of him saying ”you are not a practicing Catholic’. Let’s disregard the fact that my attendance at that Saturday night Spanish Mass is as good as or better than most of the congregation. I really do get the feeling that it matters very little to him whether I show up or not, so sometimes I do take a ‘mental health break’, and if I feel I want to return (for my own reasons, not his), I do.

    I’m not sure how to silence that ‘voice’ every morning; I do go to water aerobics classes and such, and I have a vast network of good friends who care about me, or I would have been put in the Funny Farm long ago. . Cleaning house is hard to get rolling on; I told him many times that my state of mind could be read by the condition of the house. He does not understand depression and won’t listen to or read any explanation of it.

    . So many times I would be working in one area of the house when he decided a different area was more crucial, and hollered about it. I need to try turning the radio on full blast, and Singing; that used to kind of work. Sometimes.
    I want to clean the house because it needs it, not because someone had a hissy fit about it. When he goes off on a verbal tangent, he sounds and looks like his father, who was not one of my favorite people, and the idea of the acorn not falling far from the tree is a complete Bummer.

    Guilt is demoralizing and VERY counter-productive to my organizational skills, such as they are. 😉 I would never hurt myself, but there are times that instinct makes me want to pull the covers over my head and re-wind the day.

    Of late, he has taken to bringing me flowers about every other week, for no occasion, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I do say thank you, but the gesture would mean more if I felt loved and cherished even slightly more.

    He snores. Like a Buzz Saw. It can be heard through walls. When my daughter married, I moved into what had been her room so that I could get some real sleep. This annoys my husband, even though I reiterated the importance of seeing a doctor for sleep apnea, for health reasons if not for me. I could cross the hall and ‘visit’, but I get very weary and unmotivated to do so.

    He seems to think the problem is mine; that if I ‘just go to bed earlier’ I could fall asleep before he does and sleep like a baby all night long. Plan B was Ear Plugs. I kid you not: I bought a GROSS (144 packages) of the soft squishy kind. They are uncomfortable, irritate my ears, they do NOT eliminate the stressful snorking sound he makes, plus: if I succeed in falling asleep, I can’t hear the alarm clock go off in the morning. He has been told ALL of this repeatedly, but it does not penetrate his consciousness enough to make a dent in his memory cells.

    I think he has some moles that ought to get checked out, but he won’t mention that to his care provider either. He sees the same person I do at the clinic, but she can’t do anything without him bringing up the subject and cooperating. Even if I get blunt and say, “well, your life insurance is ;paid up; you do as you see fit.”

    He thinks I am kidding when I say things like that. My friends think I have a great sense of humor,and I do. When that is exhausted and I have to grasp at straws to express myself, nothing works.

    Menopause didn’t help with the sleep thing, or with keeping a sense of humor.. I got desperate for sleep and he got equally desperate for physical demonstrations of Love, but I was seldom in any condition to oblige. Hey: the Navy taught me to Do Without that for 6 months at a time, or longer. I can do without longer than he can.

    Because he has so little regard for my feelings on some key matters like those listed above, I can’t block off my own brain when it does not appreciate being considered ‘ good enough for a roll in the hay’, but not good enough to make some changes that would cost him Nothing and would make me feel valued as much as Other People.

    Often it feels like the only control I have in my Life is control over my own body, plus what I do or do not eat. Luckily, God is full of reminders that I never have been in charge of or in control of Anything.

    If I ever got fed up enough (and organized enough) to forge my own independence, he would say that he ‘never saw it coming’, and he would be telling the truth, because he tunes into what he cares about and tunes out anything he doesn’t want to deal with.

    Sorry for so much ‘venting’. It is hard to condense decades of Weird.
    I think that having an alcoholic father warped my self-esteem and judgement to some extent. 19 was a bit young to hitch my wagon to this star. And now, with my son and my husband both in their own little Aspie universe, I scarcely know what ‘normal’ is anymore.

    However: one thing that jars me into ‘attitude of gratitude’ is when an entire classroom of Special Ed. students comes into the community pool. The spectrum of their challenges is humbling.

    Thanks for your patience, if you got this far.

  4. Dorothy said,

    The book you reference is actually titled ‘In the Spirit of Happiness’. I put it on hold at the public library; thank you Ever so much for posting it.

  5. Dorothy said,

    Your book, ‘Loving the Tasmanian Devil’, is literally a God-Send. I bought it online, and late last night I was finishing it. When I got to page 259, there was a very strange coincidence: the Gospel reading and the Psalm you shared were precisely the ones used in liturgy the very same day! I had heard this in Spanish with the Catholics, then in English with the Lutherans, followed by in English with the Catholics. Cue the Twilight Zone music, for that to synchronize with my life so tightly.

    There have been some marked improvements of late. A number of things came together, and it has much to do with God’s people, professional and otherwise. The priest and I had ‘chats’.He now seems far more accepting of my ‘bi-congregational’ ways of worship. He said, upon reflection, he thought “Jesus would be merciful” so I am now able to receive communion. I have been connected to that parish for a quarter of a century, and he has been a priest for less than a decade; he has just marked his first anniversary of serving here. If he had to absorb the histories of all members of his parish in one fell swoop, that would pack quite a punch. He fully understands that if all sinners were booted out or discomfited enough to leave of their own accord, the pews would be empty; as ’tis, parking lot is full, ditto the pews. Homilies are short, yet straight from the heart so the people Listen Up. He puts the Celebrate in celebrating the Mass

    One of the primary leaders of the first Reconciliation and First Communion preparation is divorced, remarried, and has been receiving the Eucharist for years, via the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ way of going about things. Earlier in life, she was married to a preacher with a nasty power trip personality. Her second husband is exceedingly active in the local parish. I don’t think our pastor had a clue about that ‘remarriage’ history, until recently. IF the previous pastors knew, they overlooked it. She also cantors at funerals. It would really upset the apple cart to withhold Communion from her now, and in a small parish, replacing these two would represent a problem, in a community and world that scarcely needs more problems. Add that to having Pope Francis holding down the fort in Rome…a lot of priests may be feeling ‘smacked by the Holy Two by Four’. We live in very interesting times!!

    (Seems to me that full-time religious vocations of any denomination may require a borderline Asperger personality (compelling interest, routines, perseverance, devotion…some more ‘resistant to change’ than others…. )

    Another Blessing: after 9 months of lobbying for the opportunity to sing a Psalm at the Spanish Mass once in a blue moon, my husband (music director for that Mass) casually said that the new lectionary book would be out soon, so I should think a bit ahead of time about what Psalm might work best for me. He said this as if saying “looks like Rain tomorrow.” I had to work so hard for this development that I just hope I don’t mess up…it does seem the Holy Spirit is moving, if only I stay tuned to it.

    Your book, including that crazy Gospel reading/Psalm coincidence, is a big blessing! At the moment, Life is Good. Thank you!

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